I remember a time when no one walked on the moon, save in the science fiction stories I read, or movies I watched. Hell, wanna get real, when I was born no one had even launched a satellite; I beat Sputnik I to the gate by five months and one day, and it would be another four years before a Russian went up for one orbit around the Earth, mostly because he was a very good parachutist–but that’s another story for another day.
I was big into science fiction as a kid, which meant I was big into space–’cause, we’re talking about reading stories that had been written during the Golden Age of Science Fiction–and that meant I was into everything that happened regarding space flight. We had no internet, so everything came from papers, from radio and TV news, from Life Magazine–which used to print most of the pictures released to the public–and from the few books pertaining to the American efforts, as those wacky Soviets just didn’t want to talk about their stuff. Hell, they even named their launch complex after a town that was hundreds of miles away, just so we’d get confused . . .
Whenever I had the chance I watched whatever was shown. I tried to keep up; I tried to gather as much information as possible. It’s not easy when you’re nine, ten, eleven years old to get your hands on stuff that wasn’t normally available to the public, or had limited accessibility. That’s the 1960′s for you: we just weren’t on the cutting edge of the future, you know.
I saw it all. I watched every mission that went into orbit. I watch every one that went to the moon. And I watched, to the best of my abilities, every walk upon the moon. Even saw a few cars drive around, saw three Lunar Modules take off, and once watched one of Galileo’s experiments get proven. It was a great time for science, and an even better time if you were a geek.
Those times are long gone. We haven’t walked on the Moon since December, 1972. If you removed the trips to the Moon, we haven’t had anyone higher than a few hundred kilometers above the Earth since the last days of the Gemini Program. While we’ve had a continuous presence in orbit for a long time, we’ve lost our will to explore.
There will come a time, probably within the next five years, that everyone who has ever walked on the moon will have died. The youngest of the walkers is 76; the oldest 82. After that, we might have to wait until the middle of the 21st Century before someone does it again–unless people do start walking on the Moon in the late 2020′s, as some are saying. And the chances are good those people who do the walking again are Chinese, because it seems like no one here gives much of a shit anymore.
In the U.S., there is a definite feel that science is for people who are just too damn smart for their own good, and who are pretty anti-religious as well. That ignorance is just as good as intelligence, and in some ways better. When you have people yelling at Bill Nye, as they did a few years back when he spoke in Texas, that the Moon gives off light like the Sun ’cause the Bible says so, one has to wonder where they hell we are going. When you still have people saying they have “proof” that we never landed on the Moon, you have to wonder how we are ever going to continue. And when you hear people state, as “fact”, that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, and they have “proof”, it makes you want to just end it all.
One day we, as a species, will get back out into The Black. It might not be us as a country, but someone will go. Someone is going to take more steps–on the Moon, maybe Mars, maybe somewhere else.
Say it won’t happen? You’re surely wrong. ’Cause one day I’m gonna hop on my unicorn and take my own trip . . .
And join those who can tell me what it was really like to skip along in the dirt of another world.